The Uncanny (1977)

Rating:

Canada/UK. 1977.

Crew

Director – Denis Heroux, Screenplay – Michel Parry, Producers – Rene Dupont & Claude Heroux, Photography – James Bawden & Harry Waxman, Music – Wilfred Josephs, Special Effects – Michael Albrechtsen, Makeup – Brigitte McCaughry & Tom Smith, Production Design – Wolf Kroeger & Harry Pottle. Production Company – Cinevideo/Tor Productions

Cast

Peter Cushing (Wilbur Gray), Ray Milland (Frank Richards); Susan Penhaligon (Janet), Joan Greenwood (Miss Malkin), Simon Williams (Michael), Roland Culver (Wallace); Katrina Holden (Lucy), Chloe Franks (Angela Blake), Alexandra Stewart (Joan Blake); Donald Pleasence (Valentine De’ath), Samantha Eggar (Edina Hamilton), John Vernon (Pomeroy)


Plot

In Montreal, Wilbur Gray tries to convince publisher Frank Richards to print his book, which posits the belief that there exists a conspiracy of cats against human beings. To prove his thesis Gray quotes several case studies:– That of a wealthy woman who wrote a will leaving all her money to her cats, whereupon her nephew and maid conspired to kill her and destroy the will, only to then have the cats take revenge. The second case is of young Lucy who went to live with her aunt and uncle after the death of her parents but who had to contend with her cousin Angela who made her life a misery. She took revenge by using black magic to shrink Angela until she was a toy-thing of her cat. The third story is of horror actor Valentine De’ath and his lover who conspired to kill his wife but who reckoned without her cat.


The Uncanny was another shot at the horror anthology subgenre. This had a history going back to the silent era but had been patented to great success by Amicus Pictures in the 1960s and 70s beginning with Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1964). Amicus had successfully made a number of such films including the likes of Torture Garden (1967), The House That Dripped Blood (1970), Asylum (1972), Tales from the Crypt (1972). The principally Canadian filmmakers even went to the extent of employing some names – Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence – who were veterans of the Amicus anthology and anglo-horror cycle. Although by the time that The Uncanny was made, interest in the Amicus-styled horror anthology had died off altogether.

As with the majority of Amicus’s anthology films, the linking story here is weak – while taking the view that cats are evil and conspiring against humans, the second and third stories contradictorily show cats more as exactors of just desserts. Moreover, the idea of cats as the central focus of a horror film is not that scary a one – excepting perhaps to an allurophobe.

However, what the film lacks in an unscary premise and routine stories, the first episode at least makes up for in the ferocity of the attack on Susan Penhaligon. The second story, when it gets Chloe Franks down to miniature size, takes on a sudden effectiveness, despite the wavering quality of back projection effects, leading up to a wonderfully yeccch ending. The third episode is the weakest, considerably disabled by Donald Pleasence’s overacting, but is almost worth it for the delicious one-liner ending almost worthy of the Crypt Keeper in the Tales from the Crypt that allows the cat to literally get Pleasence’s tongue.



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